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By John Meade

American Politics Through Egyptian Eyes

market in cairo

     Walking through the streets of the market one night in Cairo we met a man who had just closed up his shop.  He began to walk with us and at first I was annoyed.  We had had a long day and I really did not want to deal with this strange man bothering us.  The more I talked to him though I realized that he probably just wanted to interact with a foreigner.  He told me that the majority of the people that he meets only want to hassle him for the things in his shop and they mostly do not care who he is or where he comes from.  I felt sorry for him and agreed to have him walk with us on our way to find something to eat.  He asked me where I was from and I told him America.  He was the first person that I met in Egypt that had a strong reaction to that news.  He got very excited and told me how much he loved America and George Bush. 
     We walked for a bit longer while talking about politics.  At one point he mentioned the war in Iraq.  He wanted to know how I felt about it, and I told him honestly.  The next thing he said came as a massive surprise to me.  He said that he greatly supported the Iraq war.  I was so confused.  I never expected someone from a Muslim country like Egypt to support America’s war in the Middle East.  I forgot about my fears of insulting this man and asked him why he would support the war.  He said that he supported the war because Saddam Hussein was a tyrant.  He had no respect for someone who oppresses Muslim people the way that Hussein did.  He told me that he wished more people in the United States could understand that.  He was astonished when I told him that so many people at home do not support the war and wish that we had never invaded in the first place.  He said that it all comes down to the people.  If Muslim people are being oppressed in the world, someone should do something about it; and he respects President Bush for doing so. 
     Talking with this man really had an effect on me.  I never anticipated having this kind of conversation with a Muslim man.  Our conversation opened my eyes to the different outlooks that people have. Farha Ghannam reinforces this point when she writes about religion in the introduction of her book Remaking the Modern: space, Relocation, and the Politics of Identity in a Global Cairo.  Ghannam writes about the role that religion plays in the daily lives of Cairo’s citizens.  She writes about how she thought religion would not be as significant as it was in shaping the way the local people saw the world and lived their lives.  I went into Egypt with largely the same assumptions.  My talk with this Egyptian man enabled me to see things through his eyes.  It was a very stimulating experience.

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